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Fighting Dirty: The Inside Story of Covert Operations From Ho Chi Minh to Osama Bin Laden By Peter Harclerode

Jacket: Hardcover
Pages: 640 pages
Publisher: Cassell Academic; (April 2003)
Genre: Military
ISBN: 0304353825

Comments about the author: Peter Harclerode was commissioned into the Irish Guards in 1967, serving in the UK, Middle East and Far East. He has also served in the SAS and the Parachute Regiment.

Review: For those who enjoy reading about covert operations, there is rarely a lack of good books to read, and Peter Harclerode's FIGHTING DIRTY is one of those books. Harclerode, early on, lets the reader know exactly how robust the worlds of covert operations, spy games, and proxy wars truly are. In fact, it was surprising to this reader that the world of secret operations is so intense that the epic battle and subsequent fall of Diên Biên Phú, the longest, most furious battle of the French Expeditionary Corps in the Far East, could be reported upon in a sentence fragment.

With this as a backdrop, I can tell you that Harclerode's book is an amazingly dense work that traces the dirty business of covert operations from the late 1940s through the devastating attacks on American soil on September 11th. The early coalition response in Afghanistan is also discussed, although understandably at a more superficial level. The author takes the reader on a startling ride through time and space where the lives of so many clandestine operatives are used then discarded and where proxy armies are employed like pawns in a perennial game of global chess.

This well written history focuses on special operations carried out primarily by Western forces, starting in the post-bellum years of the late 1940s and moving into the new millennium. The earliest part of these 50 or so years was marked by a rapid drawdown of American and British conventional armed forces as well as their special operations forces. During this period, China and the Soviet Union embarked on political agendas divergent from their wartime partners in the West, while Western powers struggled to put proper infrastructures in place to counter what they deemed as the increasingly ominous threat of global communism.

Throughout his work, Harclerode chronicles the many conflicts that have threatened world peace since the end of the Second World War. The Malayan Emergency, the Korean War, Indochina, Borneo, Algeria, and the chronicle of so many other conflicts is impressive. The catalog of out-of-the-way countries where the uninitiated may think Western powers have not intervened is as vast as this dangerous game is complex.

From Indochina to Korea to the Gulf and finally Afghanistan, readers are given an enormously detailed look at the secret battles and the aftermaths that are shaping the world today. Von Clausewitz stated "War is not a mere act of policy but a true political instrument, a continuation of political activity by other means." Harclerode's hefty work makes us realize that the twisting, threadlike tendrils of political power, as Von Clausewitz notes, are long, greedy and all consuming. To claim that Harclerode's work is anything less than chilling would be an understatement just shy of the truth.

— Reviewed by: Timothy E. McMahon, M.S.


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